by Jill Maser
Carol got the Priority One assignment. Alleged neglectful supervision of two small children and sexual abuse of the girl. Although the anonymous reporter had painted a vivid picture of squalor inside the home, Carol had still been overwhelmed.
Carol shuddered. She hated the cockroaches more than anything. They crawled all over the filthy kitchen. The tower of rancid dishes provided them an unending food source.
A blond boy wearing only a sodden diaper pounded across the floor to Carol’s side and smiled up at her. The ammonia smell of urine washed over them in a wave.
Carol swallowed hard and studied the child. His face hadn’t been washed after breakfast. At least he’d had breakfast to eat. “Hi,” she said with false brightness.
The child turned and ran. “Mommy!”
Carol followed the child, stepping over trash and clothing piled together. The television teetered on a rickety stand. She started itemizing the safety hazards and wished once again that she could pound common sense into her clients’ dull brains.
Carol’s thoughts were interrupted when a young girl shuffled into the hallway.
Carol peeked into the bedroom behind her. Soiled diapers had been tossed beside the bare mattress. Parts to broken toys littered the floor.
The girl’s hair hadn’t been brushed. Her threadbare nightie was stained with what Carol hoped was grape juice. She stared, unblinking, at Carol.
She recognized the girl’s expression.
She’d recognize it anywhere.
She’d seen it in the mirror.
The allegations were true.